The Melbourne Rebels and Queensland Reds both won thrillers in Round Four of Harvey Norman Super Rugby AU, but who stood out?
Two very different games but both were decided in the final moments, and this week’s Team of the Week was the hardest one yet.
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Here’s who we have picked..
1. Cabous Eloff
Man of the match performance from the big ‘Cob Loaf’. A cult hero in 2020 and now a genuine star. Just 22 years old and still so much upside. Tips the scales a $1.24 but is 194cm tall!! That height makes him a tricky customer for the opposition defence but Cabous still gets low enough to put some thunderous shots on.
2. Folau Fainga’a
Game changed when Fainga’a went off – simple as that. Folau had scored two tries and was holding the Brumbies undermanned scrum in the contest but it was Fainga’a’s first game back from injury and Dan McKellar couldn’t push him any further.
3. Taniela Tupou
We run out of superlatives for the big tighthead sometimes, who changed the game late in the second half. Taniela had the Brumbies reserve props on ice skates as he almost singlehandedly tore through them. A try capped off a 10-out-10 80-minute performance from the most damaging number three in world rugby. Don’t @ me.
4. Lukhan Salakaia-Loto
First game back from suspension and you can see why he’s so highly rated. A strong, abrasive second rower who is a sure thing in attack, defence and lineout time. Walks the line at times with referees but it all came up Milhouse on Saturday night.
5. Trevor Hosea
Back-to-back big games from the Rebels lock who was up against a more-fancied trio in Jeremy Thrush, Ryan McCauley and loose forward Fergus Lee-Warner. The Force went big but Hosea dealt with that challenge, and served up his own. Such high hopes for so long about Trevor’s prospects and he looks like a Wallaby in waiting.
6. Rob Valetini
Speaking of highly rated – 2021 looks like it is the year for Rob Valetini. He gets through a mountain of work on both sides of the ball and is a key player for the Brumbies. The Stan commentary team highlighted his intuitive football nous and analysed how he effective he is a contributing as a link player too. Nine carries and beat four defenders while 100% tackling through 80 minutes.
7. Richard Hardwick
A tough spot to pick but Dicky edges it for us against his former team. Hardwick would have been spewing after giving away the crucial penalty last week against the Brumbies but more than made amends on Friday night. Is an absolute pest at the breakdown and despite being a touch undersized, always throws himself in as a ball carrier. Won a breakdown turnover at a key time and played his heart out over 80+ minutes in Perth.
8. Pete Samu
Two tries on either wing for the agile number eight, as well as a try assist. Was just about unplayable in the opening half but his influence waned in the second period as the Reds got on top. It was a top battle between the two opposing number eights as Harry Wilson stamped his authority on the match as well, however the two pies for Samu gives him the spoils.
9. Joe Powell
Such an underrated halfback and it is great for Australian Rugby that Joe found a home in Melbourne. He’s delivery from the ruck base is superb as well as his speed between phases. His try was beautifully crafted and had the Force defence at sixes-and-sevens before he raced away for the crucial score. Will be interesting to see how Dave Rennie goes with his halfbacks as there are so many Test quality 9s in Australian Rugby right now.
10. James O’Connor
If he wasn’t Player of the Round then gee he was close. Has stepped up seamlessly as a leader of this impressive Reds team. Some questioned his decisions on Saturday night but each of them were perfect. 17 points down in the early stages and JOC doesn’t flinch as he points to the sticks to make it 17-3 then 17-6. Then again in the second half, with the Brumbies in all sorts, James again kicks the penalty to make it a one try game. Perfectly game managed. Who would have thought 12-18 months ago that we’d see O’Connor as Reds captain and in the conversation as a Wallabies skipper.
11. Marika Koroibete
Do I even need to say anything.. 134 metres from 14 carries. Five clean breaks, six defenders beaten and the try assist. One of the highlights was Marika absolutely steaming onto a short ball from Tom Pincus. It was so fast that the camera couldn’t keep up. Box office stuff.
12. Richard Kahui
Like a fine red wine, he just gets better with age. It was heads up play from Kahui to spot the opportunity for the Western Force try on Friday night. Reece Hodge launched out of the line and Jake McIntrye and Kahui pounced, before Richard spun and offloaded in contact to send the Force away. Some brutal front on defence too from the 35-year old. 10 carries, two breaks, three defenders beaten, four offloads and a second playmaker option in the Force backline.
13. Jordan Petaia
A mixed night with the ball in hand as teams have figured out how to target his carries but his matchwinner was a pure delight. Just absolutely no fear from Petaia and centre partner Hunter Paisami as they threw caution to the wind with the grubber behind. A wicked bounce but Jordy had the presence of mind to react and slam it down to seal one of the best games in recent memory.
14. Andy Muirhead
First Nations Round and boy, didn’t Andy rise to the occasion. Has come on leaps and bounds over the last few years. Quietly goes about his business but can be lethal with ball in hand. Showed pace and skill to get on the outside of the Reds defender, draw the second man in and flick out the back of the hand to send Pete Samu away.
15. Rob Kearney
A really tough position to pick after outstanding displays from each of the fullbacks over the weekend. His opposite Tom Pincus was nearly best afield for the Rebels while Tom Banks and Jock Campbell went at it each other all night long in Canberra. There’s just something about Rob though. He’s an ultimate competitor and never dies with the ball. His little celebration after securing the 50-22 was just indicative of the bloke and he then doesn’t shy away from blasting his teammates for lapses in concentration.
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